Tuesday, 16 December 2014

The Lindt Shop of Horrors

I would like to think that the filthy little bastard responsible for this is now screaming in Hell.

His list of crimes, both alleged and proven, before he embarked on his one-way ego trip to the grave was long and godawful, and almost any of them should have seen him either behind bars or with his refugee status declined and his sick and sorry arse on the first plane back to Iran, to face whatever fate awaited him there. Certainly he did nothing to deserve the place in Australian society that was originally so generously afforded him, having done very little (it seems) since his arrival other than to metaphorically piss on the carpet every so often.

I'm not going to provide hordes of links, because bloggers far greater than I (Andrew Bolt and Tim Blair among them) have already covered this quite well, and I intend to keep it quite short.

I will not stand for anyone who wants to apologise for this miscreant, or to minimise the horror of what he put his hostages through and what he has subjected the families of the people he killed to at what should have been the happiest time of their year. I don't want to hear it, and I don't need to hear it. I don't need to hear about anyone being the victims here apart from the two people whose deaths he brought about and the many more who are possibly going to have nightmares for years over this.

As Bolt has already covered quite well, I will not stand for people who profess compassion (the "I'll ride with you" hashtag) on the one hand yet who on the other hand are perfectly capable of writing this:

I’m learning about hate because I am coming to hate you, white person. You have all the control, all the power, all the privilege, and there is nothing holding you accountable. I hate the double standards and hypocrisy you display, the rank dishonesty of your conduct. I hate that you can harm us, when we cannot harm you. 

There are plenty of nations on this earth that are governed by non-white people. Perhaps the author of this vile, hateful tissue of lies would prefer to try her chances in one of them and see how much more pleasant life is there. It's very easy to spout such garbage when you're attacking a Western capitalist democracy from within; not so easy in other systems when they behave in ways you find objectionable. Like the way they execute people in Iran for being gay, or flog raped women in Saudi Arabia, or mutilate little girls' clitorises in Sudan, or murder a hundred and twenty schoolchildren in one bloody incident in Pakistan, or sell 200-odd teenage girls into sexual slavery in Nigeria.

You know, things like that.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

"The Game", by Neil Strauss

This book, lovingly bound in the old-fashioned style with (unfortunately faux) soft leather cover and (equally faux) gilt-edged pages, is the history of journalist Neil Strauss's journey into the Heart of Darkness that is the Pick-up Artist scene. Stauss's account, including the admissions of the things he got up to, is at times disturbing and occasionally even revolting, but it's not without its moments of moral lucidity - both at the time and certainly in retrospect. It's worth reading, and the last I looked, it seems that it's possible to find a pdf of the whole book online.

Everything that follows is seen through the filter of my interpretation of what Strauss saw, did and subsequently wrote.

What Strauss appears to have been offered at ground level was a method by which geeks, dorks and the otherwise socially inept could attain the same power to score chicks as the jocks and alpha males they went to school with - in other words, a levelling of the social playing field. I don't blame them - I was one of the otherwise socially inept as a teenager, and it used to baffle me as to how Boy A and Girl B, who in some cases had never before met in their lives, could be found snogging in a corner not an hour after they'd first made introductions to each other.

The essence seems to boil down to a series of routines, deeply rooted in a knowledge of linguistics and social psychology, with a very generous helping of experience gained through repeated failure. It has the advantage that someone who is socially awkward through being non-neurotypical can learn them (and as Strauss indicates, often does so with a vengeance) and apply them. The origin of all this goes back to a very few men who laid the original groundwork back in the Seventies, and whose followers then refined the techniques and expanded them through their own readings. The (somewhat potted) history of all this is recorded in Strauss's book.

By his own account, Strauss himself appears to have excelled at the Game, rising from apprentice to master very quickly by dint of application and innate intelligence, but also by combining the best of every school of thought he could get an "in" on. However, the old saying that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely was never more true than here, and the problem with the players of the Game is that they went beyond the ability to "level the playing field" and gained - too quickly and too easily - the power to dominate it. As I read it, men whose dream it had been simply to be able to approach a woman ended up living the nightmare of being addicted to picking them up - the end goal had been forgotten, and the means had become an end in itself.

What I found more interesting (and significantly more ironic) is that as each apprentice matured, his desire to take on apprentices of his own (for a handy teaching fee, of course, as was the case from the very start) expanded, until finally the place in which they were living and multiplying was seething with neophyte pick-up artists being churned through the "schools" like boot-camp conscripts. So the whole thing had basically morphed into not necessarily a consciously evolved pyramid scheme, but certainly a pyramidal structure, and the end result was market saturation: all the girls had been approached at one time or another with all the routines, and even the experts - the flexible ones, who'd developed and/or synthesised their own techniques and understood the deeper why as well as the rote-level what - found themselves locked out. They had, in essence, destroyed themselves.

Strauss appears only to have found true contentment when the insane situation in which he was living eventuallyh brought him together with a woman who appreciated him for what he was - which is what the Game had originally been designed to do. Others bailed out early, and some of them did so to find God.

The whole sordid business (and even reading through male eyes with most moral filters switched off, it's still pretty sordid) makes me wonder whether any of what he was doing was ethical, but at base level I think the original intention - to level the playing field for young men who are starting out from a position of social-interactive disadvantage - was (and remains) a pure one. The important thing for the person considering going down this road (and Strauss's follow-up, "The Rules of the Game", lays out the nature of that road pretty clearly) is not to lose sight of the basic goal - you are using this stuff to create an opening in which your natural self can shine.

The problem a lot of Strauss's fellow-travellers seemed to have is that their natural selves sometimes had very little to offer, either to begin with or because playing the game had consumed their lives and become the centre of their existence, and there was little for them to do but work their way through the routines (and the women who fell for them) as if that would bring them some sort of fulfilment.

By Strauss's account, it didn't. And this, to me, is not in the least surprising.

I give the book five stars out of five. Strauss's writing is excellent, his turn of phrase brilliant, and while some of the content is extremely disturbing, it does offer a glimpse into a part of the male mind that is all too often treated by some people as if it's the entirety. It isn't, and that fact needs to be recognised.